Local nonprofit leader uses Super Bowl to support domestic violence survivors

While tens of millions of people spent their Sunday watching the big game, the head of YWCA Greater Cincinnati was in Las Vegas during Super Bowl weekend to raise awareness about domestic violence and offer support to survivors.

Rickell Howard Smith participated in the daylong She Rise Retreat, presented by NFL Moms and SMOOOTH Inc., a nonprofit that works to empower women affected by the perils of domestic violence.

The outdoor festival aims to provide hope and support for those who’ve experienced domestic violence. Partner organizations offered information about available resources and services, but they also handed out a variety of self-care items to keep themselves healthy while recovering from traumatic experiences.

Rickell Howard Smith (R)

Howard Smith described the event as a starting point for letting go of past moments that may have “diminished their spirit” and letting them know their best years are in front of them. 

“We do this work here in Cincinnati and it is just an honor to be invited to spread this empowerment that we do here (with people) all over the country,” said Howard Smith, who joined YWCA as president and CEO in February 2023. 

Supporting survivors near and far

Every year, the NFL hosts events during Super Bowl week and throughout the year focus on addressing issues of profound significance. The league partnered with four women who are not only mothers to NFL players but also advocates against domestic violence.

The NFL Moms team includes Camilla “Lady” Stewart, the mother of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver “Tee” Higgins. The others are Sabrina Greenlee, Denise Simmons and Julia Parker.

YWCA Greater Cincinnati received an invitation to participate in the event thanks to its more than 50 years of expertise in the field of domestic violence prevention.

She Rise Retreat

The organization offers crisis counseling, risk assessment, information, referrals, safety planning and support for survivors in Adams, Brown, Clermont and Hamilton counties 24 hours a day, every day. It also operates the only domestic violence shelter for families in the region.

Howard Smith called it an honor to be able to bring YWCA expertise to Las Vegas to share insights with survivors. As part of the event, she participated in a panel discussion on self-healing and recovery after leaving an abusive relationship.

Details about the retreat weren’t made public for safety reasons.

Prior to the event, Howard Smith voiced excitement about connecting with other women working to help those who need it most.

“We do this work here in Cincinnati and it is just an honor to be invited to spread this empowerment that we do here, all over the country,” she said.

Spike in domestic violence during sports events

It’s no surprise that She Rise Retreat takes place during the Super Bowl. The game brings added eyes to the events surrounding it, of course. However, data shows that instances of domestic violence tend to increase during the game as well..

YWCA Greater Cincinnati experiences an uptick in hotline calls and shelter requests every Super Bowl Sunday, Howard Smith said. It’s not a one-off situation, either. Police reports related to at-home, male-on-female intimate partner violence increase by 10% when a home team loses, per data from YWCA Greater Cincinnati.

Sporting events and other large gatherings are also hotbeds for human trafficking. There’s an increased demand for sex-for-sale as well.

Rickell Howard Smith (white shirt) and the NFL Moms

“We know from statistics that domestic violence cases seem to rise during game days. And this is the Super Bowl, so it’s very significant to talk about this very serious issue during the Super Bowl weekend,” Howard Smith said.

While the Super Bowl is over, Howard Smith said the fight against domestic violence is ongoing. She invited women everywhere to use their “time, talent and treasure” to support domestic violence shelters in their cities.

Te National Network to End Domestic Violence has worked with the NFL to shape the league’s revised policy on domestic violence.

“We certainly hope that this cabinet catalyzes a brand-new partnership with the Bengals with the NFL Moms and wives (of players) as well,” she continued.

YWCA Greater Cincinnati